UH honored distinguished faculty members for excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and advising. UH also named two faculty members as John and Rebecca Moores professors.
John and Rebecca Moores Professors
Kevin Bassler, physics and mathematics professor, has distinguished himself as an outstanding researcher with superb teachings skills. Bassler’s research focuses on understanding and identifying the fundamental principles that govern the dynamics of complex systems, especially those structured as complex networks. Bassler is the recipient of several other honors including a 2005 Excellence in Research and Scholarship Award and the 2003 College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award.
Gangbing Song, mechanical engineering professor, is an internationally recognized scientist. Song’s accomplishments include the creation of a new smart aggregate sensing system to monitor the health of concrete structures. His teaching methods are equally impressive. In his classes, Song incorporates such technology as Remote Experiment Technology, which enables students to perform real-time labs by remotely operating experiments. Song has received several honors from UH including last year’s Teaching Excellence Award for Innovation in Instructional Technology.
Excellence in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activity Awards
An internationally renowned and prolific researcher, Ramanan Krishnamoorti began his career at UH in 1996. Since then, he has developed a reputation as a leading expert in polymeric and nanomaterials. In addition to his duties as professor of petroleum engineering and subsea engineering, Krishnamoorti is UH’s chief energy officer. He is a recipient of other honors including the coveted National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. “Thanks to his leadership UH is making great strides in energy research and education,” a supporter noted.
In a span of five years, Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Applied Research Hub at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, has established internationally lauded research programs such as the Energy Device Fabrication Lab. He has published more than 70 papers and delivered nearly 100 conference presentations. Five of his inventions have been licensed by industry. In 2004, Superconductor Week named him the Superconductor Industry Person of the Year. Selvamanickam also serves as a professor in physics, chemical engineering and material engineering.
Steven Baldelli has received much acclaim from his peers nationwide for the depth and scope of his research contributions in physical chemistry. One professor at Pennsylvania State University described Baldelli as an “absolutely outstanding scientist.” Baldelli’s nominator noted that he was also one of the first researchers in the world to study the surface chemistry of ionic liquids, which have applications in batteries, fuel cells and other energy-related materials and processes.
Called the “backbone” of the Texas Obesity Research Center, Daniel O’Connor has developed a national research agenda in obesity assessment and program evaluation. O’Connor, associate professor of health and human performance, has published 100 peer-reviewed articles. He was named the most distinguished athletic trainer by the Southwest Athletic Trainer Association in 2013. He also received the 2012 Athletic Trainer Service Award from the National Athletic Trainers' Association.
Ognjen Miljanic, assistant professor of chemistry, is a “superbly talented researcher and laboratory mentor,” according to his nominator. Miljanic has published 20 papers and secured $1 million in research funding. Miljanic, who began working at UH in 2009, was the first faculty member from the University to have been selected as a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. His past awards include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which supports his research into self-sorting chemical systems.
By all accounts, Jeffrey D. Rimer is a rising star as a faculty member and as a mentor. Rimer, the Ernest J. and Barbara M. Henley Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, researches crystal engineering. Rimer has authored 25 peer-reviewed papers, submitted five patents and received two prestigious junior faculty awards — the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Doctoral New Investigator Award from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. Additionally, he has mentored more than 20 students including nine undergraduate students and 12 doctoral students. His devotion to his students and mentoring has earned him another University honor — the 2014 Early Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research.
Rupa S. Iyer
Rupa S. Iyer, associate professor of engineering technology, has made what is sure to be a lasting mark at the University. Iyer developed and implemented a biotechnology degree program, which has grown from 10 students in 2009 to more than 250 declared majors in fall 2013. One supporter noted, “In Rupa’s eyes, effective teaching and learning in biotechnology is predicated on the idea that for students to be successful, they must be able to function in a ‘real-world’ environment.”
At the core of Shuhab Khan’s teaching philosophy is his belief that “learning is fundamentally a curiosity-driven activity in the framework of a carefully prepared curriculum.” In keeping with his philosophy, Khan, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, brings innovative teaching methods — such as GeoWall, a data-immersive simulation technology — to the classroom. One of Khan’s former students wrote in a supporting letter, “Without his sincerity, love and passion for the field of geoscience and his students, I would not be pursuing my graduate studies.”
In just three years at UH, Mo Li has built quite a reputation in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “She is the best professor I have ever met,” wrote one of Li’s former students. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by other supporters. “She is very passionate about teaching,’” her nominator noted. He added that Li explains concepts clearly, incorporates real-world problems and case studies, and uses examples and demonstrations.
For assistant professor William Ott, math is more than just numbers. “It is the engine that drives scientific and technological innovation,” he commented. Ott has taught a range of subjects from advanced graduate courses in topology to undergraduate classes in complex analysis. He has supervised eight undergraduate research projects and four Ph.D. students. One former student credits him for being “a guiding beacon in my success as a student, teacher and budding mathematician.”
Robert Stewart, Cullen Chair Professor in Exploration Geophysics, strives to “provide a profession, a career beyond the courses” for his students. To meet his goal, Stewart has developed the UH Geophysics Summer Field Camp in Montana, created two graduate courses and rebuilt the Allied Geophysical Lab. “His passion for supervising his students is exceptional despite his hectic schedule as a professor and also as an active person in the geophysics community,” one student wrote in a letter of support.
Jerry Waite, professor of technology, has received national and international acclaim for his remarkable teaching skills. He is the recipient of multiple honors including the 2011 Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation Educator of the Year Award and a 2000 Apple Distinguished Educator Award. “Dr. Waite’s passion for printing and the digital program is incredible. He has a way of making something that could be boring exciting to learn about,” one student wrote in a letter of support.
Jack Young’s performance as associate professor at the School of Theatre & Dance has received excellent reviews from his colleagues and students. One former student credits his training with Young for his success as a theatre professional and as a university instructor. His mission, Young noted, is to match his students’ talents with “a full range of skills and as many hours of experience as possible so that they might thrive in their creative pursuits.”
Teaching may just be in Jokūbas Žiburkus’ DNA. His students have described him as a “natural lecturer,” a “gifted instructor” and simply “awesome.” In the classroom, Žiburkus, assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, focuses his efforts on generating interest in the subject, engaging students in campus resources and research-related activities, and incorporating technology. According to one former student, Žiburkus provided him with encouragement and advice to help him complete the doctoral program.
In the classroom, Jeremy Bailey’s goal is simple: “to leave students, like my best teachers left me, unfulfilled with their current understanding.” Bailey, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Honors College, added, “True learning is never-ending, knowledge is almost always provisional.” Judging by his former students’ feedback he has more than met his goal. “He challenged me to constantly improve my work and deepen my understanding of the material,” one supporter commented.
Barry Lefer challenges and motivates his students to excel. Lefer, associate chair and associate professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has mentored 14 undergraduate research projects and helped create the University’s first doctoral and master’s atmospheric science programs since he started at UH in 2006. “Seeing how he captivates students and hearing his colleagues talk so highly of him, I want to emulate his qualities not only as an educator but also as a person,” one student wrote in a letter of support.
Distinguished Leadership In Teaching Excellence
Associate English professor David Mazela “has sought to introduce best instructional practices to every level of the University,” according to his nominators. His supporters also noted Mazela’s leadership role at the Center for Teaching Excellence. He served as the center’s chair and director between 2011 and 2013. The center, as one supporter noted, “was a critical step for the University of Houston in its deep commitment to student success and, one might say, faculty success.”
Randy Thummel, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Chemistry, is a consummate professor — creative, productive, dedicated and inspiring. Under his guidance, 18 students have received master’s degrees, and 22 students have graduated with doctorates. Over his 40-year career at UH, Thummel has earned numerous accolades including two teaching excellence awards — one from the University and the other from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. One former student noted, “Dr. Thummel’s lectures were methodical and easy to follow.”
Alumna Padhmalatha Segu, clinical associate professor of optometry, helps children see a brighter future though See to Succeed, which provides free comprehensive eye exams and glasses to children in need. Segu assisted in the program’s creation and serves as its medical director. Under the program’s auspices, the college examines an average of about 1,000 children each week over a 14-week period. Nearly 12,000 children have received service, and nearly 11,000 pairs of glasses have been distributed at no cost.
Diana De La Rosa-Pohl
Alumna Diana de la Rosa-Pohl considers herself a teacher first and an engineer second. “I have always wanted to find ways to support those students who have a strong desire to learn, but who struggle in their courses,” de la Rosa-Pohl stated. In addition to supporting students, she also took on the task of redesigning courses in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Rebecca George’s love for teaching plus her deep commitment to her students have resulted in an effective learning environment. A UH alumna, George has earned teaching evaluations that always rank among the best in the math department, her nominator noted. “It takes a brilliant mind to know mathematics, but a profoundly gifted person to actually know it and teach it,” one supporter wrote.
Mequanint A. Moges
Mequanint A. Moges, instructional associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, encourages his students to “think outside the textbooks,” according to one former student. As a result of his prodding and mentoring, many of Moges’ students have excelled, conducting research projects that have been published in technical conferences, and earning national and university awards. Moges has received two teaching excellence awards from the College of Technology.
Learning by doing is a teaching philosophy that alumnus Hesam Panahi employs inside and outside the classroom including in RED Labs. Panahi, clinical assistant business professor, launched RED Labs to provide resources and mentorship to students starting technology companies. A former student, who received international recognition for his work, commented that Panahi is “opening doors for students so that they can realize their crazy ideas.”
Gary Richardson, Project Management Institute (PMI)-Houston Professor in the College of Technology, sets a high standard for instructional faculty, a supporter noted. Richardson created UH’s master's project management program. Over the past seven years, about 350 program participants have taken the international PMI professional certification exam with a pass rate in the range of 98 percent compared to the 65 percent industry average. Richardson noted his teaching model is designed to “peel the topic in absorbable layers.”
Graduate Teaching Assistant
“Letting students know you believe that they can accomplish great things and produce meaningful work can give them confidence to realize their academic goals.” Those words from George Poncy speak to his commitment to help his students in the College of Education excel. His nominator described him as approachable, caring and compelling instructor who possesses an extraordinary gift for teaching.
Positive learning, learning by doing, and learning to think critically and analytically are three elements in Katherine Ramos’ teaching philosophy. Ramos has effectively applied her teaching model in the various courses she has taught in the College of Education. One former student noted, “She is an excellent educator, who not only teaches by the book but teaches the course as a life lesson that will always remain.”
Jiabiao Ruan’s work in the Cullen College of Engineering’s Vibration and Control lab course had already won him accolades. Last year, Ruan received the college’s Teaching Assistant Excellence Award partly because of his extraordinary work ethic. Ruan offers free tutoring sessions to his students and assistance beyond his scheduled office hours. As a result, Ruan received the highest score for a teaching assistant in the course.
Over the past five years, education professor Eugene Chiappetta and engineering faculty members Fritz Claydon, Stuart Long, Hanadi Rifai and Pradeep Sharma have collaborated to run the successful GK12 program. The program teaches doctoral engineering students how to convey the technical aspects of their research, primarily nanotechnology, to a lay audience of K-12 teachers and students. The result has been a well-trained set of Ph.D. fellows who have been well-received by local school districts. One former fellow commented that he continues to use the lessons he learned to teach undergraduates and lead research programs in West Texas.
teachHOUSTON has successfully trained nearly 100 math and science high school teachers since 2009. The program’s success is due in part to the efforts of senior members Paige Evans, Perri Segura, Maria Benzon and Leah McAlister-Shields, according to their nominator. Their efforts focus on the field experience courses and advising. The decade prior to the establishment of teachHouston, UH produced less than 10 fully qualified math and science high school teachers. Now, UH ranks in the top 2 percent nationally for the production of qualified high school chemistry teachers, the nominator noted.
Mentoring in Undergraduate Research
Lifetime Faculty Award
Norma Olvera’s passion for mentoring is as strong as her love of teaching. Olvera, professor in the College of Education and a UH alumna, has mentored more than 150 undergraduate students. Olvera’s uses BOUNCE, a summer camp for middle school minority girls focusing on a healthy lifestyle, to engage undergraduate students in addressing various research issues. One of her former students commented, “She has motivated me to achieve the goals that I would have otherwise deemed impossible.”
Early Faculty Award
Supporters say Carla Sharp has distinguished herself by welcoming and inspiring students in her research lab. Sharp, associate professor of psychology, has mentored more than 40 undergraduates since joining the UH faculty in 2009. “Not only has Dr. Sharp done an impeccable job in growing my passion for research, but further, she has played a great role in building my interest in the field of psychology and cognitive neurology as a whole,” a former student wrote in a letter of support.
Distinguished Faculty Scholar Awards
Susan Kellogg’s goal is not just to study history. Kellogg’s work focuses on the place and voice of the indigenous female in Latin American history. Kellogg has authored two books, co-authored one book and co-edited two. Kellogg’s book “Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America’s Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present” is the most important synthesis of indigenous women’s studies to date, according to her nominator.
Cecilia Williams’ accomplishments as a scientist, professor and mentor are nothing short of extraordinary, her supporters noted. Williams, assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, researches the hormone estrogen and its impact on breast and colon cancer development. She was awarded a $1.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to support her colon cancer research. She has mentored one postdoctoral researcher and seven students, four of whom are women.
Lisa Alastuey, who teaches in the Department of Heath and Human Performance, motivates her students to learn and inspires some of them to follow in her footsteps. “I am able to emulate her exceptional teaching skills and rapport with my own students,” commented one former student. More than 70 percent of the 4,100 students Alastuey has taught since 2006 were female.